Friday, August 31, 2012

Love Notes: A Day In the Life

{small ways to show great love}

For a few months now, I've been officially obssessed with Instagram, which, if you haven't heard of it, is a photo sharing app with vintage-style flair.  You can share your everday adventures, your manicure, the cover of the book you're reading...Recently, I heard someone say, "Instagram is the new Twitter," I guess because of the following and frequent sharing aspects,and I panicked.  "Oh mercy," I thought to myself.  I've always kind of hated Twitter.

My husband teases me, but I love capturing short little moments I'd probably forget about otherwise.  So, regardless of your social media opinions, I was inspired by the underlying idea of snapping the images that make up your day and appyling it to one day in particular.  The both of you, that is.  Your wedding day eve, perhaps?  One of your birthdays?  Or, just celebrations for anyday.  Before Andrew and I lived together and saw each other every day as husband and wife, we'd spend hours on the phone each night gabbing away about our days.  I love the gift of our constant time together now, but I do treasure those endless conversations.  It's special, in its own way, to share things with someone when you aren't face to face.  So, whether you're a long-distance couple like we were, or if you do see each other frequently, I love the thought of collecting memories throughout the day and then sharing them with one another.

Here's your project: decide upon a day during which the two of you will photograph as many details as you care to: breakfast, your desk, the view out the window, your feet, the view from the pew if you go to Mass, and anything and everything of beauty.  At the end of the day or next time you see each other, share the fruits of your picture-taking; even better, put them in a book!  Consider it an all-day date.

Do you love sharing your pictures as much as I do?  How do you share the little things when you and your fiance are apart?

PS- you can follow me on Instagram!  @stephmariecalis

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Economy of Salvation: Style Me Thrifty

{creative ways to save your pennies on the most expensive day of your life}

Almost every girl knows someone who kills it at doing hair.  You know, the one who's helped you with curls for parties and updos for dances, and who just starts braiding your hair while you chat.  I wish I was that girl; instead, I sometimes spend entirely too long practicing styles that don't seem complicated, but somehow result in a nest on top of my head.

Anyway, why not save some cash on your big day by enlisting your best personal stylist?  My Aunt Nancy did my wedding hairstyle, and she and my best friend Beth created simple, pretty updos for my bridesmaids.  I loved my hair, and she did such a good job, it didn't budge all through a day of 105 degree heat or even an evening of hugging people and serious dancing.  What more could you ask for?

I was inspired by these gorgeous looks--all of them look simple enough to pull off without a professional, and are totally beautiful.  Tell me which one's your favorite!

Monday, August 27, 2012

More Catholic Wedding Blogs!

Can I tell you something?  I am a total unoriginal.

As a college freshman, I stumbled across the most beautifully written blog by a young woman who'd been asked to chronicle her engagement on behalf of the USCCB's For Your Marriage initiative (if you've never visited this awesome collection of wedding Mass info and practical articles, go do it now!).  I soon found out she went to the very same school as me.  In fact, her fiance had been one of my group leaders during freshman orientation!

Her name is Sarah.  She's a natural storyteller, and I was captivated right away by her love story.  She met her husband, Daniel, when they were freshmen themselves, and I loved reading about their first meetings, conversions, and, of course, their proposal story and wedding plans.  I am so, so sure, that you will, too!  There's so much to gain from her insights about things like setting up your future home and learning to argue well, but even more than that, you'll be inspired by Sarah and Daniel's romance; one that's so centered on divine love.  You can visit her blog here.  If you're like me, you'll want to read it start to finish!

I was so happy when, as a newly engaged girl myself (almost four years later), I saw that For Your Marriage was sharing another young woman's story.  Incidentally, she's named Sara, too (no H this time)!  Her husband Justin chimes in on some of her entries, and it's such a pleasure to hear about moving to a new state, choosing an extra-special wedding dress (I can't wait for you to read that post!), and preparing for an incredibly holy nuptial Mass with many of their priest friends in attendance (celebrance?).  If you check in this week, you'll see that Sara and Justin have just welcomed a sweet baby boy!

I hope For Your Marriage continues this amazingly truthful series of glimpses into real couples preparing for a lifetime together and pushing each other to holiness.  Sometimes it seems like there are so few resources out there, you know?  I wanted to share my life with you in this blog, and also add in the practical aspects of style, music, and reading material when it comes to planning your wedding.  Honestly, it feels as much fun as shopping sometimes--I love looking around for sweet, affordable resources, putting inspiration boards together, and identifying what I think are perfect Mass and reception songs.  One thing that's unique to both Sarah and Sara's blogs, though, is the intense focus on their thoughts leading up to their marriages.  Honestly, I'm a little jealous that they've chronicled a journal of so many special moments--falling in love, getting through the hard stuff, and walking up the aisle--that they can look back on forever.  It's such a sparkling, purifying time.  Are you inspired?  I happily invite you to pore over these ladies' words, and tell me what you think!  There's such beauty and such wisdom to be gained.

Friday, August 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Volume 2

{story of a soul, condensed}

Did you catch my first round of 7 Quick Takes, thanks to Jennifer at Conversion Diary, two weeks ago?  Look here for the lowdown.  And now, for your reading pleasure (hopefully!), seven pieces of my life lately...

via Instagram
{1} There's a rebel grafitii-ist afoot.  Seriously!  Every once in a while, I'll see positive words like these painted here and there around town.  I'm not exactly sure about the ethical merits of vandalizing public property or whatever, even if it's nice vandalism, but it's hard not to smile when I come across stuff like this.  Andrew and I spotted this little piece of work on the beautiful rail trail that winds all through our area.  Some of my favorites, besides this one, have said "Life takes time" and "'re alive."  We've been trying to run together lately and it's fun trying to match each other's paces!  Naturally, my hubby is faster.  When he gets too far ahead, he'll loop around and come back to where I am, like a little orbit.

{2} Speaking of my sweet husband, he started a new job last week!  He's now teaching freshman English at two colleges, and I'm so proud of him.  It brings me such joy to see his soul at peace, having found the exact work that brings him alive and doesn't even feel like work.  That kind of peace definitely helped him on his first day, when, at a stoplight, Andrew and our car were the victims of a crazy turn of events.  A stranger got out of his own car and, unprovoked, approached Andrew yelling and motioning for him to open the doors.  Long story short, this man climbed on the hood of the car and smashed the windshield.  Miraculously, thankfully, Andrew's safe, and the damage wasn't unbearably expensive.  It was funny though, to experience a major event separately, rather than together, for one of the first times.  No one was able to get the license plate number of this man, which we've just been trying to see purely as an opportunity for mercy to be poured out.

{3} Call me antsy, but it's around this time of year that I start making a Christmas list!  I love giving homemade presents, but since they sometimes take a little longer to make, I try to get a head start!  If you're a knitter like me, definitely visit this blog for some gift inspiration!  The Purl Bee is an amazing SoHo, New York boutique full of gorgeous yarns and fabrics, and their blog is full of incredibly modern, chic projects that will completely erase any preconceptions you might have of knitting as an old lady hobby. I always leave the pages inspired, and they have tons of helpful, step by step tutorials.

via Instagram
{4} The best time of the year, in my opinion, is coming so soon!  Few things make me happier than crisp air, skies that seem a deeper blue than usual, bright leaves, and Pumpkin Spice lattes.  I've been trying to take advantage by eating lunch outside during the day, instead of at my desk like usual.  Bare feet, sunshine, and a book are the perfect way to transport myself from work for a while.  It's like a mini picnic every day!  Glory.

{5} While we're on the subject of books (prepare yourself for a slightly nerdy analysis here), I just finished one this week, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.  I'd read another of his novels, Middlesex, for a lit class in college and fell right away for his wit, creative style, and ability to really inhabit his characters and make me feel like I knew them in a deeper way than most.  He's pretty frank sometimes, but I just find him such a sharp, honest observer of people in a way that never makes his language seem gratuitous.  Anyway, as a former English major, I was pretty excited to read this, his newest book, which is English major, a girl named Madeleine, and the complicated love triangle she finds herself in after graduation.  There's a smart, literary boyfriend with a mental illness, plus an adoring boy next door who undergoes several spiritual conversions, including one with Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity.  It all sounded pretty interesting, but you know what?  This book actually left me cold.  None of the characters seemed to develop much or even be passionate about anything; they just kind of drifted through their lives, and I struggled to identify with what was or wasn't romantic. To be fair, I suspect Eugenides' points might have included that the entire generation portrayed suffered a sense of aimlessness, suspicious of religion, and that the relationships in the story weren't meant to be seen as romantic below the surface.  It's always kind of a downer when fictional characters are so lost and so obviously missing an understanding of the good, the true, and the beautiful, you know?  So, all in all, not a total waste of time, but definitely nothing too shining, in my eyes.  Have any of you read this?  And, what should I read next?  I love recommendations!

{6} It's been hard for me to believe, but we've been settled in our little apartment for just over a year now.  For me, the prospect of at least another year here has made it feel a lot more permanent, rather than just a short-term thing, and I'm in a decorating bug phase!  My current dream is to create an affordable, pretty gallery wall with a mix of paintings, prints, and photos.  I bought some canvasses and paint last week and am super excited/apprehensive to pretty them up!  In the spirit of things, I put this inspiration board together.  I'm so inspired by simple, graphic statements, summery brights, and religious art that's not too formal ( I love, love, love the image of Mary at the Annunciation, just sitting in her room!).  I think some color and bold pattern would add so much life to our hot cocoa-colored wall.

{7} And last, for your Friday, a song I can't stop listening to.  Remember when I wrote about the Ache?  The Civil Wars capture it perfectly; they know what it's like to yearn for someone.  This song, "To Whom It May Concern," reads like a more poetic version of my longtime desire to just meet my husband, already.  As if the subject matter weren't enough, their exquisite harmonies will kill you.  Listen here!

Visit Conversion Diary for other Catholic bloggers' 7 Quick Takes, and have a  wonderful weekend!  What are you up to?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Spirit Rejoices: Garden and All I Want Is You

{sweet sounds for your Mass and reception}

You know how some songs just attach themselves forever to a single memory?  Two years ago, I was driving to the South Jersey shore with my two brand-new fellow missionaries, who've since become my sister and brother, as we listened to Matt Maher's Alive Again CD.  The last few songs on the album, one of us mentioned, seemed to follow an order.  There's a song called "You Were On the Cross," which, as you might be able to guess if you don't know the song, is about the crucifixion.  It ends with these dramatic string swells, followed by a bunch of incomprehensible noise, which I always took to be the earth's quaking at the moment Jesus died.  The end of that song bleeds right into the next one, "Christ is Risen," and the progression is pretty obvious.

But what to make, we wondered, about the quiet, gentle final song, "Garden?"  We listened.  We repeated.  We talked.  The conclusion we ended up coming to was that, with lines like

Your love so strong
I can't recall
What was this thing
They call the fall?


All the broken are mended
The mournful rejoicing
Singing through tears
of peace overflowing,

this song is most likely about Heaven!  Disclaimer: until I was writing this post, I actually thought the last line right there was "a feast overflowing," which I guess would also fit.  But hey, it's not my song. Regardless, I'm always so blown away by this image of beauty: perfect peace, healing, and the Father's immense, eternal love.  It's a gorgeous duet that I think could have a super special place in your Mass--how can you not see the relationship between your own wedding and the wedding feast of the Lamb (even if "feast" isn't one of the words!), or not feel how strongly this song evokes the deep love between a man and woman that are mirrored in Christ's love for us all?  I love the image of your married relationship as a garden, hidden from the world and a refuge of comfort and honest, quiet intimacy.

You can listen to the song here.  Hulsie and Wilson, this one's for you:

Do you enjoy the movie Juno as much as I do?  I've always thought "All I Want Is You," the song from the opening credits, was so sweetly goofy, and I was surprised to learn that the singer, Barry Louis Polisar, is actually a children's artist!  No matter, with its sweet chorus of

All I want is you, will you be my bride
Take me by the hand
And stand by my side?
All I want is you, will you stay with me?
Hold me in your arms,
Sway me like the sea,

your guests of every age will be able to relate.  I'm imagining it played as a not too slow slow dance, if that makes any sense!  This little ditty is full of "ifs"-- "If I were a flower,"  "If I were a wink,"  "If you were an ocean..."  what's your favorite?

Listen and decide!

Throw in your two cents; I so love hearing what you ladies think!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Rite Resources: Wedding Chicks Printables

It's no secret that I love, love, love all things stationary (remember this and this)?  I also happen to shamelessly love anything pretty and free.  So, you can imagine how completely tickled I was to find this!

The Wedding Chicks are two young women who've curated a fantastic bevy of inspiration, DIYs, and vendor resources.  Best of all, I just found this amazing collection of free printables!  There's save-the-dates, invites, monogram images, and signs that range from quirky and vintage to modern and elegant-- I bet it won't be hard falling in love with one of their designs!  Or two.  Or three...

Here are a few of my favorites!

A sweet, simple Save the Date.  Don't you love the typography?

Anchors and monograms...a few of my favorite things!

So in love with this thumbprint guestbook!  It reminds me of Up and is enough to make me wish I could have another reception, if only to collect everyone's prints and turn them into art!
These are DJ song request cards.  Practical and adorable!

Girly and classic.  These make my heart skip a beat!

And...not to leave the boys out, behold this hilarious "Will you be my best man?" response card.  There's one for groomsmen, too!

Unbelievable, right?  Which designs do you like best?

PS- check out the Wedding Chicks' cute sister site, On to Baby, too!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Love Notes: Moonrise Kingdom

{small ways to show great love}

Love heals.  It's a simple statement that takes dozens of forms, and I wholeheartedly suggest one of them to you this week.  Date night, anyone?

I'm forever thankful to my hubby for introducing me to the director Wes Anderson.  His movies all share a stylishly quirky, sort of vintage sensibility and stories about dysfunctional families that touch me in unexpected ways: a look between two characters who've spent a lifetime longing for each other, the sometimes surprising ease of forgiveness, and peoples' journeys to an understanding of the truth.  All of his films that I've seen end with a beautiful, but real, sense of hope; you get the sense that his characters' many scars are still right there on the surface, but that they're on the way to healing what's been broken between them.

Anyway, we couldn't wait to see Wes' newest movie, Moonrise Kingdom, and were so excited when it came to our town (it's been in a smaller release, I think)!  I have, have, have to recommend it to you.  Unlike his other movies, this one has kids, Sam and Suzy, as its heroes.  Boy, a not-so-eager boy scout, meets Girl, an angsty bookworm, when Girl stars as a raven in a play of Noah's Ark (I know!).  I don't want to give too much away, since I loved the story and since it provided so many small, lovely surprises, but I'll say that it's a perfect summer movie.  The story slowly pulls back its layers to reveal the deep hurt that even kids can experience--a few fairly violent moments shocked me, but they didn't feel gratuitous.  It's not just some light little romantic comedy, but that doesn't mean it's a downer at all.  The characters are sweetly broken but able to bring their hurt to the light, which is a beautiful thing, and the fantastical, adventurous vibe will make you want to go back to summer camp.  Best of all, the movie shows such a wonderfully innocent portrayal of love that hasn't been touched or stained by the world yet.  A little slice of purity reclaimed.

So go!  If Moonrise Kingdom is playing near you, it's absolutely worth the price of a ticket!  And, if or when you've seen it, do leave a comment and let me know what you thought!

P.S.- Remember Bryant and Amanda?  Their wedding is tomorrow!  Join me in interceding for them and for all other couples entering into marriage this weekend!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Inspired: Palm Wedding Day

{wedding candy}

Have you ever traveled somewhere and felt like you just fit right in?  A year and half ago, I had the blessing of traveling to Miami, Florida for work during the month of February.  February.  Gift!  So many things about the area felt perfectly after my own heart: mountains of Cuban-style rice, beans, and plantains (we eat a similar meal, minus the plantains, at least every week and a half--so delish and economical!), relaxed Latin music and culture (I was a Spanish major), gorgeous beaches with sparkly, turquoise water, spare, Mission-style chapels, and maybe best of all for me (call me shallow), a fashion sense that matched me perfectly.  The Palm Beach area near the city is an old resort town with style that I adore--think a bright, kind of kooky take on preppy country club staples, with lots of bold jewelry tossed in for good measure.  I love it!

Anyway, I've been thinking that a little Palm Beach style could bring the best classy, retro touch to a summer wedding.  Inspired by this gorgeous shot of Grace Kelly on vacation and this swanky hotel bar... are my picks to bring some colorful fun to your celebration:

Bright patterns here, a ruffle there, some pearls, some wicker...and don't forget the perfect shades for your wedding party (click to enlarge)!

Clockwise from top left: Dresses, Emma Graham.  Starfish Earrings, Swell Caroline.  Necklace, Etsy.  Lilly Bowtie, Etsy.  Nail Polish in Tart Deco, Essie.  Sunglasses, Target.  Wicker Pattern Purse, J.C. Penney.       

Consider, also, investing in one or two pieces you can wear long after your big day--a cozy scarf, classic white sandals, and a stack of pretty enameled and jeweled bangles.  I love these:

Scarf, Lilly Pulitzer.  Sandals, Jack Rogers.  All Bangles, Bauble Bar.

What do you think?  Would you add any of these little touches to your big day?  They seem to me like they'd add a wonderful spirit of fun and just the right amount of whimsy into the mix.  Perfect for the bride who doesn't take herself too seriously!

PS- Happy Feast of the Assumption!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Make of Our Hands One Hand

I don't know about you, but it took me quite some time after my conversion to feel like prayer could be more like a casual conversation than a formal, scripted-type thing.  I knew the Lord loved me beyond all telling and took great joy in the simple fact that I was stealing moments for Him throughout the day, but even knowing I could say anything I wanted or felt, I still felt self-conscious.  So, I don't know why I was surprised when, if I felt shy around the divine lover of my soul Himself for a while, the most perfectly loving, least critical one of them all, I also felt self-conscious praying in front of Andrew when we first started dating.  In the beginning, we took rosary walks around campus most nights, hands in each other's coat pockets.  I treasure that newness under the stars.  Everything felt so right and so free.  Nothing was weird about praying together.

It took ages though, until well after we were engaged, to feel the same level of comfort with more spontaneous prayer.  Maybe it's just that I'm on the introverted side, or that my spirituality doesn't lean much towards super vocal outpourings, but prayer really is an intimate thing.  I was a little confused--obviously, the Father knows my heart better than anyone on this earth ever could, but while I'm on earth, Andrew is a pretty close second.  As close as you can get to the Almighty, that is.

I can't really trace a singluar, clear-cut path of how our invidvidual spiritual lives have become a more shared life between us, but there is a realization that's humbled and enlightened me.  It's pretty simple, actually.  If you're like me, maybe you've spent ages longing to find a holy, hunky Catholic husband.  Maybe you've looked forward to discovering his passions, quirks, and what makes him laugh, presuming all the while that once the "Catholic" box is checked, your spiritual relationship will just fall into place, leaving you free to enjoy learning everything else about him.  I did, anyway.

My big realization, though, has been that your spiritual life isn't meant to be shoved off to the side just because you two share the same big picture.  You have to foster and guard it.  Just like your emotional and phycial intimacy develop gradually, in a way that lets the Lord take His time with you, spiritual intimacy isn't an instant thing, either.  Maybe the reason I don't feel like our story has a linear beginning and end (aside from the fact that it's far from a closed book) is that it just kind of happened without our thinking about it, growing naturally as we fell more in love.  I'm so thankful now for the depth of the prayer life between me and my sweet husband.  Adding our intentions to each decade of the rosary, sharing our insights from reading, Mass, and Adoration, and hearing his voice next to my ear as we pray before bed have become some of my most cherished rituals.  It's romantic, too, to know Andrew in that way--really!  There's a prayer to the Holy Spirit that includes the line, "enkindle in them the fire of thy divine love."  There's such truth in the reality of those words.

Our sponsor couple for marriage prep, two of my favorite former professors, always encouraged us to pray together (they said it at each meeting, and again in our wedding notes), even if it's awkward in the beginning.  I'll always remember them saying, "There's no way you can ever fully know another person's soul, but marriage brings you closer and closer to that complete knowledge."  Isn't that so beautiful?  I thought about their words often, and they brought me such joy at the thought that for my entire lifetime, my husband will constantly be revealed to me in new ways.  Every person is a mystery, and what an amazing thing it is to get those glimpses inside.

What about you, ladies?  What's your experience with a shared spirituality been like?  I'd love to hear about the struggles and the miracles both!

Friday, August 10, 2012

New Feature! 7 Quick Takes

{story of a soul, condensed}

Ladies, I'm trying out a little something new today.  Jennifer Fulwiler, one of my favorite writers from the National Catholic Register, hosts a lovely feature on her personal blog, Conversion Diary, sharing seven tidbits from her week.  Some are stories, some are links to little things she's come upon, and all of them shine the light a little brighter on what's going on in her life.  Jennifer is generous enough to let other bloggers participate by adding a link to their 7 Quick Takes at the end of her post.  It's a great way to stumble across new-to-you blogs and share in Catholic sisterhood.  I figure I'll use this section to get a little more personal, and hopefully get to know you all better, too!  With prayer intentions, your funny little thoughts, and just anything you're into lately, I'd love to get a dialogue going in your comments.

And so, without further ado, seven quick takes on my life at this moment, told with a little help from Instagram:

{1} Our first anniversary was a few weeks ago now, but I just got the sweetest surprise from Teresa, one of my best friends.  At my bridal shower last summer, she gave me a set of placemats from my registry.  I'd asked for six, but she accidentally bought only five.  Tuesday, I came home from work to find a huge and dismantled Bed, Bath & Beyond box (Andrew beat me to it) with another placemat inside!  She also sent a set of salt and pepper grinders, the likes of which I have longed for for most of our friendship's duration.   Unbelievable!  She loves me so well.

{2} I love, love, love Ikea.  Those Swedes basically furnished my entire apartment.  It's affordable, nice to look at, and pretty decent quality.  What's not to like?  Inspired my friends, who owned a huge modular wine bottle rack/dish storage monster/cereal box holder called Gorm, we've taken to calling all of our stuff by its proper, and bizarre, Ikea names.  You know, the ones full of umlauts and strings of consonants?  There's Kivvik, our sofa (more often shortened to "Kivvs)," Nyvol, our bed, and Poang, that classic curvy chair that they have.  Boy, as I write this I'm realizing how weird we really are.  Anyway, in their going green and keeping prices low way, Ikea only prints one catalogue a year.  I was so happy to get mine this week!  It's my first time having one addressed just to me, and with my married name! 

{3} BIG news.  We have a new niece! Claire Elizabeth was born on the night of Tuesday, August 7.  Pure miracle.  Praying for her, her sweet mama Natalie, dad Anthony, and big bro Jacob!

{4}  Remember my post about making a bucket list?  Long have I wished to roast a whole chicken, which, aside from being delish, just feels like a worthy culinary skill: you get to stare down your fears as you rummage around in the raw cavity, determine the point of perfect crispiness and doneness, and then carve up that sucker like a boss.  This past weekend, I'm happy to report that the bird's been checked off my list!  The recipe I found was phenomenal.  Smashed potatoes, roasted garlic, and a lemony sauce: it's love.

{5} I doodled this for my desk at work this week.  Fiat means "let it be done" in Latin; it's Mary's answer to Gabriel at the Annunciation.  As four letter words go, this is definitely one of my favorites!  I constantly need the reminder to just surrender everything and to want what He wants.  We've had some exciting changes lately, like a new job for my husband and baby dreams stronger than ever on our hearts--I'm trying and trying to wait on the Lord's timing and to make sure I'm giving Him, not just me, a hand in our plans for the future.  Pray for us, please!

{6} A while ago, I introduced you to Verily, a new magazine for young women with a fresh, positive outlook and smart, stylish lifestyle features.  I absolutely love it!  Lately, I've also been completely immersed in Matchbook, an e-magazine full of spirit and class.  Matchbook's motto is, "From lipstick to letterpress, gelato to grosgrain, and Paris to Peru, consider us your field guide to a charmed life," and boy, does it deliver!  It's full of adorable entertaining ideas and swoonworthy fashion and decorating.  Definitely above my current budget and resources, but a girl can dream, right?  You can read the latest issue and entire archive here!

{7}  I am obssessed with Mumford and Sons.  Completely obssessed.  Their songs speak to such a desire for meaning and such longings for love and repentance.  I was absolutely thrilled to hear "I Will Wait," the first single from their forthcoming album, for the first time this week!  I love the lines,

So tame my flesh 
And fix my eyes,
A tethered mind freed from the lies.
And I'll kneel down, 
Wait for now.
And I'll kneel down, 
Know my ground.

Beauty.  If you haven't heard this yet, listen to it here!

What do you think?  Is this personal stuff a snore, or would you enjoy seeing some more (seven more?) 7 Quick Takes?  Have a good weekend, ladies!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lectio: Mulieris Dignitatem

{recommended reading}

There were times during my engagement when I felt so, so far from being ready to get married.  It was that feeling of having to have my own act together first, you know?  I've written before about the beauty and the struggles, the agony and the ecstasy I experienced during my year of service.  So often, I felt that year forming me--I was purified, broken, and remade dozens of times.  Some trials revealed to me strengths I was unaware of, but others put my biggest flaws on display to people who became some of my closest friends.

I wanted so badly to overcome the sins I kept falling into, to stop leaving my towels on the floor, to get out of bed on time, to spend more time in prayer, and to bake the perfect loaf of bread, all before I got married.  In my mind, everything needed to be in order before I was worthy of becoming a wife.  Over time, though, I came to remember that just like anything else, holiness is a process.  It doesn't end with certain milestones, as much as I sometimes wished it would, but I found such peace in knowing there's beauty in the fight and that, moreover, getting married would give to me a partner in Andrew to call me on and smooth my rough edges.  I wouldn't be all by myself, though it's certainly hard sometimes to expose your weakest self to the person who loves you best.

Anyway, amidst all my worries, reading about womanhood and the feminine genius helped me in so many ways.  Being reminded of my dignity, beauty, and particular gifts as a woman was one of the best, most constant ways for me to prepare myself, as best as I could at least, to become a wife and mother.  Mulieris Dignitatem, Blessed John Paul's letter on the dignity of women, is flat-out amazing.  Mary's fullness of grace, God's intention for marriage back at the creation, the fallout of the, well, fall, for men and women, the ways Jesus honors women in the Gospels, virginity and motherhood, the Church as the Bride of's all here.  If you're familiar with the Theology of the Body, you'll find echos of that here, too--there's trinitarian love, original solitude, God's intention for marriage back at the creation, and the repeated notion of a gift of self.  I'd been blessed to have learned about so many truths in this letter already, thanks to wonderfully knowledgeable friends, but reading through it illuminated them in a way that made me realize how profoundly radical they really are, as articulated through the late, great Pope.

He doesn't say anything brand-new, of course; rather, he brings womanhood to light in a way that's so perfect for our time, with so many concepts of feminism, as well as perfect for all time.  His words seem like such a healing remedy for our wounded culture, pointing out that as much as women have been hurt, which undermines their tremendous dignity, every hurt inflicted on them by men diminishes their dignity and the truth of who they are, as well.  It's a complementary thing.  Oh, this man.

I could keep going on, but instead, check out a few of my favorite passages, in words that surpass anything I could communicate myself:

In the "unity of the two", man and woman are called from the beginning not only to exist "side by side" or "together", but they are also called to exist mutually "one for the other".

In the biblical description, the words of the first man at the sight of the woman who had been created are words of admiration and enchantment, words which fill the whole history of man on earth.

Christ's way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women. Consequently, the women who are close to Christ discover themselves in the truth...They feel "liberated" by this truth, restored to themselves: they feel loved with "eternal love", with a love which finds direct expression in Christ himself.

The Bridegroom is the one who loves. The Bride is loved: it is she who receives love, in order to love in return.

Have you ever fallen into the same trap of perfection as me?  Let these words sink in deep.  You can read the letter online here!

Oh, by the way, that beauteous picture of Mary up there is my favorite image of her, Our Lady of the Millennium!  What's yours?

Monday, August 6, 2012

"All the Joy and Sweetness Possible"

Our "guestbook" of sweet notes and advice
Two weeks ago marked my one year anniversary!  One thing I've loved doing recently is reading through all of our wedding cards.  It brings me back to the sense of boundless joy and tremendous possibility I felt on our wedding day.  I still feel those things, but in a calmer, more settled way. The newness is there, it's just a little quieter, and even more comfortable than it was on that first day, like of course being married to Andrew is the most natural thing in the world for me.

Another memento from the day, which I'm so thankful to have, is a set of notecards we provided our guests with, asking them to write us something special.  I'd been looking for a fun guestbook alternative, and this was perfect for us!  We set out cards and pens with a list of questions for our guests, including, "what's the secret to an extraordinary marriage?," "what's the best and worst advice newlyweds receive?," and "what's your favorite dinner for two?"  I loved reading everyone's congratulations and words of wisdom, and I'll share a few with you here!

  • Ad Jesu per Mariam (to Jesus, through Mary)
  • Don't expect a perfect honeymoon.  Living together and seeing each other 24/7 takes some adjusting.  Don't fight over the small stuff.  Enjoy life together!
  • Take time to date your spouse.
  • Love means...honesty.  The strength to endure it, and the wisdom to appreciate it.
  • May the good Lord shine a light on you, make every song you sing your favorite tune.  May the good Lord shine a light on you, warm like the evening sun.
  • Keep going to confession regularly.  If you keep your relationship with the Lord clear, you will be able to see better how to relate to each other.
  • Brush your teeth.
And lastly, one of my absolute favorites from our lovely friend Jenn, which has taken on a special meaning lately:

Laugh.  Be honest.  Be kind.  Make time for each other and yourself.  Anything that creates a space or wall between you: reject it.  And, know that God is good.  He loves you.  He wants to give you all the joy and sweetness possible.

A year ago, if someone asked me, I would've said that I couldn't even imagine what types of things might drive a wedge between us.  With Andrew, my heart has no walls.  His love breaks me open into my most honest, vulnerable, and sometimes weakest self.  Maybe it was prideful to think we'd never even touch the problem of something coming between us, but I've always trusted so much in our relationship that I couldn't anticipate anything like it.

Lately I've seen, though, that even when you love your husband with everything you are, little things can creep in.  The evil one tries to weaken the best, purest kind of love under the auspices of something perfectly innocent.  I started a new job a few months ago and have spent the last few weeks trying to figure out what exactly constitutes a prudent relationship with co-workers.  For me, it's been a question of how jokey or personal it's appropriate to be with a friend of the opposite sex.  It's like, is it alright or is it hurtful to your spouse to have someone you converse with frequently throughout the day, have a few inside jokes with, and can mostly be yourself around, in a way you don't experience with just anyone?  I struggle with the answer, and I pray.

With all my heart, I never want to come close to being emotionally unfaithful to Andrew.  I love him so fiercely, so without question, that I don't even think too hard about it most of the time, if that makes sense.  It's just such a constant, natural part of my life; one that feels like it's always been there.  Anyway, Jenn's words about rejecting anything at all that creates distance or puts up a wall between us has been medicine for my soul.  When I consider how much I want to love my husband in the best way, which is a desire that completely trumps any wishes I have for someone to just chat with at work, the answer to all my confusion becomes clearer.

A frequent prayer of mine asks the Lord to dispel anything in my life that's not of Him, and it's taken on a deeper meaning since I've been married.  It's not just about purifying my life, but our life together, you know?  It's a test of fire; one from which I'm confident that, by grace, we'll emerge wiser and deeper in love.

Unbind yourself.  Let all your walls down.

Have any of you experienced friendship issues like this?  How did you deal, and what fruit did it bear?

Oh, and speaking of marriage advice, what's the best piece of wisdom someone's given you?!

PS- Be sure to check out my new Contribute page.  I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Economy of Salvation: DJ DIY

{creative ways to save your pennies on the most expensive day of your life}

First off, an apology.  No post on Monday.  "Time makes fools of us all," according to Albus Dumbledore and all that.

Anyway, I'm so excited to show you a little something new today!  This feature is all about saving your sweet cash money while still entering into a nuptial Mass that opens up the heavens and throwing a classy, delicious, fire-burning-on-the-dance-floor reception you'll always remember.  So the question is, where should you splurge and where should you save?  I think I've mentioned before that I've been to tons of weddings in the past year and a half or so.  One thing I've realized is that your DJ can definitely make or break your festivities; after all, he's basically carrying the whole party by transitioning between things like entrances, grace, toasts, and special dances.  He can keep everything running smoothly, dispel any awkwardness, get your shyer guests out on the dance floor, and make any announcements you like.  That said, I'm not so sure I'd recommend foregoing a DJ altogether, but here's a few suggestions for cutting down on the bill:

  • Have you noticed I've been constantly saying "DJ," not "band?"  I mean, don't get me wrong, you guys.  Wedding bands are so great.  Swing, bluegrass, oldies...of course they'd do a bang-up job.  I'd wager, though, that your guests will have just as good a time without one, and a DJ also offers you the option of greater variety in your musical selections.  That means your cousins can bop around to that Call Me Maybe song, your grandparents can still slow dance to Frank Sinatra, and your uncles can bust out their best Y.M.C.A.  Or maybe it's just my uncles who do that. 
  • Word of mouth is a powerful thing.  Our DJ was a friend of my mom's from church, who also happened to run a professional DJ'ing business.  Without her encouragement, I probably would've spent hours shopping around and stressing about whom to chose.  As it was though, I had the peace of mind of already knowing his personality (jokey, charismatic, and mega-talented but not a stealer of the spotlight--all three great qualities to look for!).  And, he offered an hourly discount to parishioners and friends--if there's someone you're connected with, don't be afraid to nicely ask!
  • DJ companies staff several DJs and hire them out (hmm.  Maybe there was a less sketchy way of phrasing that sentence?).  That means they offer you an easy way to get a hold of someone, but it seems to me like independent DJs who own their own businesses, rather than work for a service, are a better choice.  They'll most likely have more freedom within their contracts, and since big companies tend to be better known, the indie route probably won't charge as much. 
  • If you're really tight on cash, one option might be to have a DJ on hand for most of your reception, so he can announce all the big moments and get everyone having fun, and then do your own tunes for the last hour or so.  It's not hard to put a playlist together and appoint someone, maybe from your wedding party, to keep everything running nicely along.

Regardless of whether you hire a DJ for the whole evening, or just part of it, the best suggestion I can offer you is to be super-clear on what you want him to play.  That's not to say you need to hand in a 5-hour list, coordinated down to the second, but just to communicate well about what you like.  My DJ, Jack, was so awesome.  He ran the whole show like a pro, and beforehand, he told me that his only goal at each wedding was to make the bride and groom happy.  He mentioned that the most helpful thing for a DJ is to know what you don't want played, rather than what you do.  That way, there's no question in his mind about what you consider appropriate, but he can still observe and work the crowd, which is why you hired him in the first place.

If you need a few suggestions to get things rolling, I've put together a list of songs I love and that I think would be perfectly reception-worthy.  Most are popular, a few aren't (I found that it's more engaging to play songs people know), and there are styles varied enough for plenty of your guests.  Enjoy!

Chime in!  Would you enjoy seeing more playlists on Captive the Heart?


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